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NASA’s Orion spacecraft has returned to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida after its historic flight around the moon earlier this month. Orion blasted into space aboard a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket in mid-November and traveled more than a million miles during its journey that ended after it plunged into the ocean earlier this month. During its mission, Orion broadcast gorgeous images of both Earth and the Moon, which also saw it travel further than any human-class spacecraft in history.
NASA prepares to open the Orion spacecraft to study the effects of the trip to and back from the moon
Orion arrived at Kennedy Space Center yesterday after being retrieved from the Pacific Ocean and dispatched to US Naval Base San Diego on the USS Portland. At the base, it is prepared for its flight to Kennedy, located on the other side of the United States. The entire flight took just over two weeks, as engineers in San Diego prepared the spacecraft for its land cruise by installing hard casings, deflating it. Guidance bags and the removal of some of the science payloads sent in space.
Now that it’s at Kennedy, engineers will begin to take apart the spacecraft to understand the effects of flight on its structure. While most of the testing during its flight was done when Orion flew to the moon and back, the heat shield was a critical component that wasn’t tested until the water splash. This is one of the most important parts of the ship, without it no crew could return to Earth, and NASA had to wait until the mission to test it thoroughly as these conditions could not be simulated on Earth to mimic the full extent of a heat shield.
She arrived at KSC’s Multiple Load Handling Center in the afternoon and was then moved inside High Bay at night for further inspections. During its flight, Orion met all of NASA’s test goals, but some anomalies appeared in its power control systems.
These systems use the sun to generate electricity which is then supplied to the myriad of different equipment on board, such as those for flight path control, making sure astronauts have a habitable environment, temperature monitoring and more. During her voyage, some of these circuit breakers were turned off without any command being sent by the computer, shutting down the ship’s propulsion system as well.
Some of the other payloads on the ship are the mannequins placed to understand the effects of spaceflight on future astronauts, the Zero Gravity Index and the Official Flight Kit. NASA named the mannequin after Arturo Campos – the engineer who rescued three astronauts during the Apollo 13 mission in 1970 after an oxygen tank on board exploded and led to a loss of power for the astronauts. Campos’ plan included redirecting power to the emergency batteries to ensure that the crew on board would survive until it crashed to the ground.
With Orion now back at KSC, NASA will next perform the first manned mission of the Artemis program. The history of the Artemis 2 mission will be affected by the outcome of the Artemis 1 mission, and as part of their journey to the Moon, the astronauts will fly a different trajectory than the Orion spacecraft currently in Florida.